I’ve just returned from a trip to Paris, which was absolutely wonderful. It truly was a trip of a lifetime for me as I’ve always been obsessed with Paris themed things, and I will definitely be writing a blog all about my adventure very soon. However, today I’m here to talk about the things that made my trip run super smoothly, that I would no doubt have been stressed without. So, here are my top travel essentials:
Number 1: Travel Mobile Data
This has got to be the most valuable thing I purchased before my trip. With my mobile provider it cost me £10 for 250MB of data which gets added to my monthly bill. There are 2 reasons I couldn’t have done without it. The first is that it became a very effective way of keeping my family updated on what I was doing, including pictures, as I sent them daily updates via Facebook Messenger. This was very cost effective as instead of sending multiple texts to each family member, I would send just the one message on a group chat. It also saved my family money as they didn’t need to text abroad but could message me for free.
The second reason my mobile data was invaluable was because it got me from A to B. Paris is a VERY large city and sticking to the main streets would have taken twice as long to get from one destination to another as opposed to using the quickest route, but I’m not familiar with the streets, how am I to know the quickest route? This is where Google Maps comes in. By having mobile data I could use Google Maps to navigate my way around Paris, meaning I always knew where I was going and never got lost. Not only that, but I could type in things like the nearest metro station or nearest McDonalds, and I’d instantly be able to find it. I could have got a written map of Paris and figured it out, but the thing I really loved about using Google Maps to make my way around the city is that in finding the quickest route it took me down all the little streets, the ones lined with one of a kind boutiques and little bakeries. I really don’t think I would have stumbled upon the Latin American or Jewish Quarter had it not been for Google Maps taking me around the back routes, and it became one of my favourite sights, because it felt like I was seeing the real Paris. I walked through a street of houses and it felt like I was seeing the city for what it really is, not just the tourist attractions.
Number 2: A Portable Charger
My phone isn’t great at holding charge, on average it lasts a day and a half, and by using my phone as a map to get around that charge was decreasing even faster, this is where my portable charger came in. Purchased on Amazon for £23.99, the Anker PowerCore 13000 Portable Charger became a real life saver. I carried it in my handbag and when my battery started to get low I would pull the cable out through the gap in my bag and plug my phone in, allowing me to keep following the map in my hand whilst the charger itself is securely tucked away. Also great, if like me, you are using your smartphone to take holiday selfies as that too can drain a battery. The benefit of the Anker PowerCore is that it has 2 USB slots so I could charge both my mobile phone and another device such as my camera, selfie stick or travel companions phone whilst on the move. The portable charger charged my phone to full 3 times during my 6 day trip, which meant I didn’t need to recharge the portable charger, but if I had, because it recharges itself via USB and my phone charger has a USB slot, I could have used my phone’s plug to charge the portable charger when without a laptop.
Number 3: A Packable Parka (also known as a Pack-a-Mack)
I’m going to go all touristy on you now and say that a foldable raincoat is one of the most essential travel companions. I know it’s cringing, you think of a plastic see through sheet used at festivals or your parents walking round in something that resembles a bin bag, but those days are behind us and foldable rain coats have been given a stylish boost. Folding up into it’s own pocket allowing it to become as small as your smartphone and fit easily into your handbag, the packable parka is standing the test of time. I’ve had mine a few years now and I actually really like it. It’s convenient and it’s got a really nice floral pattern on pale blue, and I’ll tell you why it was essential in Paris; an umbrella was too heavy and took up too much room in my bag, so I took my foldable raincoat instead. When I headed out in the morning there were a few clouds but the sky was a bright blue and the sun was shining, I didn’t think it was going to rain, but being so light their was no harm in taking the coat just in case. Afternoon rolls around and although still very warm, the heavens opened and it chucked it down! The heavy rain came from nowhere and everyone was running into shops because they didn’t have coats. Me on the other hand, unfolded my raincoat, put it on, pulled up the hood and carried on walking down the street of Paris. Paris in the rain is just as magical as sunny Paris by the way, this city is literally always beautiful. No need to stop what I was doing and no need to get wet. I got mine from George at ASDA ages ago for £12, but they still have cute ones, just search ‘Packable Parka’ at http://direct.asda.com.
Number 4: Travel Money Card
Before I went away I was worried about how much money I would need to carry in cash to pay for the hotel, my food and souvenirs and that’s when I heard about travel cards and it was super easy to set up. After a little bit of research on the different rates, I decided on a company and went into my local travel agency branch. All I had to do was sign a form and then I was given a travel card with a PIN, I could load multiple currencies on the card, and I could do so by visiting the branch or transferring money from my bank to the travel card via their app. The card works just like your debit card, with no charge, and can be used anywhere that accepts mastercard. The only time you would see a fee is if you withdrew cash, which cost on my travel card 2 euro per withdrawal, or if you used a card filled with euros to purchase something in dollars, for example, you’d see a transaction fee, but that wasn’t a problem for me as I was dealing in one currency. I had heard mixed reviews, some people didn’t like the travel card because they came across situations where they needed cash and there is a charge to withdraw, what I would suggest is that if, like my card, the withdrawal fee is per withdrawal you’d be far better off getting a 2 euro fee for withdrawing 100 euro, instead of a 2 euro fee for withdrawing 10 euro. Alternatively what you could do, and this is what I did, is put all your money for food and paying the hotel on the card, and then your spends for souvenirs you could get in cash before you go. I took 80 euros in cash and the rest on the card and I had no need to withdraw any money. It really was so easy going into a shop, popping my card into the chip and pin machine and entering my PIN just as I would back home. Obviously, I can only talk from a Europe perspective, as I haven’t used it elsewhere.
Number 5: A Portable Luggage Scale
We decided not to take a suitcase and just use the allowance for one hand luggage and one handbag. The weight for the hand luggage needed to be below 10kg, which was fine on the way there with both our bags weighing around 5kg each. However, on the way home it appeared we had bought quite the load and our bags had gone up to 12kg each. We did eventually resolve this issue by wearing 4 layers of clothing and landed home with no additional costs, but we wouldn’t have been so fortunate if we hadn’t packed the portable luggage scales. We bought them for £10 and they certainly got their use as we kept weighing and re-weighing our bags to try and get the weight below 10kg. Figuring it out in the hotel was far less stressful than finding out at the airport, and I certainly won’t be going away without them.
So their you have it, the 5 things that I found invaluable on my recent trip. Hopefully what I’ve learned can help you have a stress free trip too 🙂
Happy Holidays Everybody!
Amy Williams-Weeks (AWW)